Vacaville Family Creates Memories of Drama, Elegance

Editor’s note: Christine Franklin passed away June 3, 2011.

You can tell that Christine Franklin has been the life of every party. It takes no stretch of the imagination to conjure images of her providing the zing in girlfriend gatherings or being the first to appreciate the jest just before a delivered punch line.

A lovely brunette with a taste for exotic jewelry and creative clothing, she radiates vitality. A person like her is not supposed to die until she is a century old and infirm with every spark of her spirit ready and willing to be extinguished.

But that is not her fate. Christine, with her ready grin and wicked laughter, has a vigorous form of breast cancer that will take her life soon. But it did not rob her of one of her biggest dreams: to experience San Francisco in two vastly different ways within 24 hours with her daughter, her son-in-law and her three grandsons. That’s because NorthBay Hospice’s Dream of a Lifetime made her fantasy into a colorful, elegant and even slightly bawdy reality—just the way she wanted it.

“I wanted a happy and extravagant memory for my family,” said the 59-year old, in her Vacaville home, which is filled with brightly-painted Mexican plates and a bubbling backyard fountain. “I’ve been battling this disease for so many years, and they have had to witness it all. It was time for us to enjoy each other and not have to think of illness and death.”

“We are always so thrilled and surprised with the generous hearts that support Dream of a Lifetime,” said Veronica Wertz, the program’s coordinator. “Christine dreamed of staying at the iconic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and then seeing the amazing, theatrical antics of the performers at Teatro ZinZanni. When we called both the hotel and the show, every single door opened wide. We are sure that this is an experience that will last for generations within Christine’s family.”

The first Dream of a Lifetime miracle occurred at the Fairmont Hotel. When Christine, her daughter, Colene Spencer, and the rest of her family arrived in the legendary lobby, the manager told them they were going to stay in the Presidential Penthouse. “I burst into tears right there,” said Christine. “They took us up to the penthouse in a special elevator, and every part of it was so beautiful that I dropped down and did snow angels on the carpet! I couldn’t believe this was ours for the night. We had a billiards room, a bathtub you immerse yourself in, and the bedroom where President Reagan, Marlene Dietrich, President Clinton, Mick Jagger, and many other luminaries rested their heads for the night. My grandson was doing a school report on Reagan and actually got to sleep in the same room he had slept in.”

“We always try to make staying at the Fairmont a special memory for our guests,” said the hotel’s manager, Michael Musarra. “Christine’s story touched all of us in a unique way, and we wanted to go all out to make her stay here measure up to all her dreams.”

Fresh from the opulent and stately Fairmont, the family’s next stop was to zany, edgy Teatro ZinZanni, a mixture of cabaret, Cirque and nightclub. Christine fell in love with the theatrical decadence in the famous tented space on Pier 29 which includes a boutique loaded with decadent jewelry, masks and feathered hats.

Before attending the performance, which featured acrobatics and comedy, she indulged in a fun time with her family, trying on some of the store’s merchandise. The manager placed a huge crimson boa around Christine’s neck and escorted her family near the stage where they shared a fabulous meal and watched international performers defy gravity on ropes, chandeliers and high platforms. After the show, she was escorted backstage and enjoyed spending time with the international cast.

“I wanted a happy and extravagant memory for my family.”

“We loved that she put us on her dream list,” said Susan Outlaw from Teatro ZinZanni. “Nothing makes us happier than to know Christine and her family loved their time here.”

Thanks go out to Dream Makers Pat Dennis, Guild volunteer; Jane Schilling, director of Volunteer Services for NorthBay Healthcare; and NorthBay Healthcare Foundation Board Member Stanley Davis for assisting with this Dream.

Christine, who herself has volunteered for NorthBay Guild and for years has offered kindness and solace to cancer survivors, knows her struggles are not over.

“Sometimes, I get frustrated with the fact that this process is taking so long, and I hate to be a burden. I worried at times that, after my death, I would be missing in action—just someone who disappeared. I am so appreciative that we will all have this memory. Because of Dream of a Lifetime, I will have it as long as I live, and my family will have it long after I am gone.”

Dream of a Lifetime

Christine Franklin and her family were recipients of the NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement’s Dream of a Lifetime program that grants wishes of the terminally ill. Begun in 2009, this is one of the few programs nationwide that fulfill the final dreams of adults.
To find out more about this special program and its rules and guidelines, call (707) 646-3575.

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